Fall, Winter & Spring is that time of year when the Village Public Works Department would like to remind those who have had problems with freezing pipes in the past, that they should be thinking about doing something. Last year there were many freeze-ups due to the cold temperatures, and many cabins which had “never” had frozen pipes, froze. It would be best to eliminate as many of those problems as possible.
Here are some suggestions that may be helpful in preventing costly thawing of water lines: first of all, the depth of the service line is extremely important. The Village is responsible for the main lines and the owner is responsible for the service line which starts at the main. There is a corporation stop valve at the main at which we can shut off the service. If that valve is exposed and we can turn it then the main line is determined to be “live” and it is the service line that is frozen. The Village has experienced a number of service lines that start out deep at the main and become shallower as they get close to the residence. They usually run just under the footings of the foundation and up into the utility room or mechanical room where a shut off valve should be installed. Because a lot of cabins see limited use in the winter there is often little or no water usage for several months. When homeowners arrive in the middle of winter at Christmas, there is often no running water in their cabin because of a frozen pipe. Once ice starts to form in the pipe, standing water against that ice will continue to freeze its way back to the main line until it is all frozen solid.
The best fix is to make sure your water line is buried at a proper depth, has good insulation and is situated in a manner to prevent freezing. Water lines that run on an outside wall are subject to freezing if the heat is shut off to the house. Leaving a faucet dripping at a reasonable rate could be a relatively simple fix for some, as 100 drips/minute equals approximately 12-13 gallons/day. A thin steady stream would be approximately 27 gallons/day.
Many cabin owners drain their water lines before they leave for long periods of time but the lines still will freeze if their water line is shallow somewhere between their cabin and the main. Once the frost line dives below the service line anywhere, the freezing will begin. Recently, some customers have installed battery-operated timers on their faucets that can be programmed to turn the water on and off every 4-8 hours to purge the line of any ice crystals that may be forming and prevent the water line from freezing. These have helped, although, you should replace the batteries regularly. Heat tape is another option but we would suggest that heat tape not be buried as it may or will fail at some point and would have to be dug up again. Placing straw bales over sections of the service line where the line is suspected to be shallow can also provide some insulation.
Feel free to call Ray Keen or the Public Works Department at 575-776-8846 if you have any questions about what you can do to prevent costly freeze-ups.